August 14, 2006

Ocupado - a Lemma

Hatched by Dafydd

Throughout history, occupation has always required the consent of the occupied, for the same reason that a government always requires the consent of the governed: it's not just a good idea, it's a law of human nature.

It flows from the theory of "hegemony" enunciated by Italian Communist Antonio Gamsci at great length in his Prison Notebooks (he was imprisoned by the Fascists for the last ten years of his life). I generalized his theory to remove the Communist elements.

In my reformulation, Hegemony is the perceived fitness to rule. What is a king? A man in a robe with a shiny hat. He tells other men -- bigger and better armed -- to risk their lives invading some other country; what makes them obey?

Hegemony. They have chosen to consent to his rule. It may be because his father was king before him, or because the high priests said God chose him, or just because he speaks with the voice of authority. If ever the hegemonic chain is broken, he becomes just an unpleasant, old man in a robe and shiny hat, which any one of the palace guards can take away and put on another head (remember Claudius hiding behind the curtain). Only hegemony holds them back.

Remember, "hegemony" is the perceived fitness to rule, which results in social consent; it need not be the reality of simple brute force. Elizabeth I of England was one of the most powerful monarchs that nation ever had... yet she herself had virtually no army; she had a bunch of noblemen who loved her with a passion, and she "borrowed" their armies to keep England strong.

A mugger can force you to hand over your wallet at gunpoint; but it takes a government with hegemony to get you to consent to pay your taxes, even when nobody is looking.

In democratic countries, hegemony flows from the vox populi via the medium of an election and is conditioned upon the ruler's willingness to follow certain written guidelines. In dictatorships, it flows from the decision of the top military officers to follow the dictator, and the junior officers to follow the leaders, and the ordinary soldiers to kill their friends and neighbors upon orders from the junior officers.

But in an occupied country, the chain of hegemony is severed: the old king or president is deposed and probably dead, and no new one has been allowed to be set up by the normal procedures. Thus, whether the occupier can rule depends upon whether he can establish his own chain of hegemony over the occupied, persuading them to obey his commands even when the occupying forces are busy elsewhere.

Thus, occupation requires the consent of the occupied, and the lemma is demonstrated.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 14, 2006, at the time of 5:14 AM

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Tracked on August 14, 2006 4:34 AM

Comments

The following hissed in response by: k2aggie07

Kind of a catch 22 Dafydd. I'm not sure I agree with the last bit. There's a difference I think between consenting to an agreement and being forced under duress.

The people aren't remaining under the rule because of perceived right to rule...they're doing it out of fear. Thats not really the same thing as consent.

The above hissed in response by: k2aggie07 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2006 6:33 AM

The following hissed in response by: Howard_Schwartz

Your analysis of the situation is brilliant, as usual, but I believe that using the term "hegemony" is a bit maladroit. "Legitimacy" would be a better usage, and, in addition to that, would locate you in a much wider and deeper tradition.

HSS

The above hissed in response by: Howard_Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2006 1:02 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Howard Schwartz:

Many early Communists (Gramsci was a co-founder of the Italian Communist Party) made brilliant contributions to political philosophy. I can acknowledge that Communism was the greatest evil that ever befell our planet -- and even call for show trials and mass hangings of the remaining Red thugs in China, North Korea, and other countries -- without having to pretend that the leading theorists were all dummies.

Antonio Gramsci was first with the concept of hegemony (which goes beyond mere legitmacy, by the way), and I won't self-censor that fact.

If only he had used his genius for good instead of evil.

I'm giddy with glee that he rotted away his last years in a Fascist prison... though I wish the same had happened to all of his captors.

(By the way, a lot of great anti-Communists began as Bolsheviks, Trots, or related socialists: Whittaker Chambers, Arthur Koestler, David Horowitz, Irving Kristol, Robert A. Heinlein (Sinclair-ista), George Orwell, H.G. Wells (he repudiated Fabianism in his last book, Mind At the End of Its Tether), and about half the founding staff of the National Review. Don't underestimate the power of personal revulsion.)

Dafydd

The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2006 1:54 PM

The following hissed in response by: Howard_Schwartz

Yo, don't get me wrong. I'm not picking on Gramsci, whom I have not read, and certainly not on you. I'm just objecting to the word "hegemony" in this connection. I don't know what it means in Gramsci, but I don't see that your use of it goes beyond the more common "legitimacy." To accept someone as a legitimate ruler is to believe that person has the right to issue commands, and that one has the obligation to obey. What more do you need for your argument than that?

Moreover, I believe that the term "hegemony," as it is ordinarily used, has the connotation of illegitimate power, sustained only by force, as when the Chinese accuse the US of trying to exercise hegemony. I'd think you'd want to avoid that connotation, since it would seem to be the Arab claim that the Israelis do not have the right to govern them, not that their power to coerce is incomplete.

This suggests to me, in my ignorance, that perhaps Gramsci is trying to deny that power under capitalism can have legitimacy. That would indeed make it, at its most powerful, no more than hegemonic.

But, then, I would be happy to take instruction from you.

HSS

The above hissed in response by: Howard_Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2006 6:42 PM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

Linked at Old War Dogs.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2006 7:02 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Howard Schwartz:

To accept someone as a legitimate ruler is to believe that person has the right to issue commands, and that one has the obligation to obey. What more do you need for your argument than that?

I said "hegemony" was perceived fitness to rule. Legitimacy (in this context) is legal fitness to rule.

You can have one without the other. Jimmy Carter was the legitimate president, in that nobody disputed that he had won the election of 1976. But he had very little hegemony: his aides obeyed his orders, but beyond that tight circle, there was marked foot-dragging on other people's part. And on the international stage, he was seen as very weak, frightened, and easily bullied.

By contrast, John Gotti had no legitimacy; he became capo di tutti capi by murdering his own boss, Paul Castellano. And there were plenty of people who could have killed him, starting with his underboss, Sammy "the Bull" Gravano.

But instead, they obeyed him: he had no legitimacy but was loaded with hegemony, while Castellano had neither.

Capice?

Moreover, I believe that the term "hegemony," as it is ordinarily used, has the connotation of illegitimate power, sustained only by force, as when the Chinese accuse the US of trying to exercise hegemony.

Not in my dictionary.

This suggests to me, in my ignorance, that perhaps Gramsci is trying to deny that power under capitalism can have legitimacy. That would indeed make it, at its most powerful, no more than hegemonic.

Here's how you can fill that lacuna.

Dafydd

The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 14, 2006 8:02 PM

The following hissed in response by: Howard_Schwartz

"I said 'hegemony' was perceived fitness to rule. Legitimacy (in this context) is legal fitness to rule."

I take your point, but if one moves in this direction, one runs into the concept of charismatic authority, which confers its own sort of legitimacy. I'm still not sure what "hegemony" buys me.

Still, I'm happy to add Gramsci to my list of people I should read. Unhappily, it is a long list.

HSS

The above hissed in response by: Howard_Schwartz [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 15, 2006 6:02 AM

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